trouble sleeping? try a book. (here are my picks.)
Technology has a way of sneaking up and becoming a permanent fixture in my daily routine.
I work from home, so my laptop is constantly around, with emails not-so-patiently waiting to be checked and documents longingly waiting to be tackled. I’m a member of Team iPhone, which means I have Twitter, Facebook, Huffington Post, Tumblr, CNN, e-mail, and a barrage of other apps and tools glued to my hand and available at a moment’s notice.
Confession: I love being connected.
Confession: Sometimes too much.
In an attempt to unplug, I’ve been trying to read more before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter feeds.
A 2011 study from the National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of Americans report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed uses some type of electronics (think TV, computer, video games or cell phone) at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.
But, our Good Night iPhone routine isn’t so awesome for us. (Or, for the 35+ set, the nightly reliance on TV.)
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”
Since I’m preggo and sleep is extra important these days, pouring my iPhone nightcap down the drain seemed like a good idea.
Here’s what I’ve been reading (in…wait for it…print!).
First thoughts:This is a good one, you guys! Peggy writes with authenticity, empathy and intelligence as she remembers her 40+ years in midwifery. I’m only through the first part, where she chronicles her experience in the ’60s + ’70s. I’m happy times have changed and excited to keep reading.
First thoughts: The Barna Group is one of the top research firms for insight into faith + culture. Its public opinion research is frequently quoted in major media outlets, such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc. The book uses a series of surveys + personal interviews with both young adults and their parents to find what it takes to raise kids who are spiritual champions. We also nabbed a workbook to go with it. I like that it’s based on stats + research, but doesn’t eliminate the human aspect of parenting. Excited to dig in more!
First Thoughts: I pretty much skimmed the entire book the evening I brought it home from the library. Sometimes adoption books freak me out by providing plenty of worst-case scenarios. Eldridge (who was domestically adopted in mid-century America) does a decent job of realistically guiding parents through tough scenarios without getting doomsday. Two critiques: I think sometimes her own experiences color her perspectives pretty heavily, and her writing could go for an extra dose of grace. That being said, there were nuggets I definitely bookmarked, wrote down, and read aloud to Jonny. If there’s anything I can do to be a better parent to Joseph (and any other kiddos who come into our family through adoption), then I am all about it!
You can probably sense a theme. A two-year-old toddler + baby on the way have me on the parenthood-book track. (But, I’d recommend Baby Catcher to any one — kids or not!)
What’s on your nightstand? What should I check out at the library?
Today, Orphan Sunday, I join many others in remembering + praying for so many children who are parentless.
I’m so thankful.
So thankful for all who dedicate time and service to forgotten ones via foster care, missions, acts of love, + so much more.
So thankful for the children who will never again carry the label orphan because of adoption.
So thankful that God is writing an amazing story through the life of our son, who doesn’t have our physical features but so surely has captured our hearts.
So thankful that through loss, there can be redemption. Thankful that there is beauty in the ashes. That a parentless child can join a family — forever.
So thankful that when the world says it’s impossible, God says it can be better than you can fathom.
Today, be encouraged that there is hope in a dark world.
Be encouraged that though the orphan statistics are deep + wide, even the life of one, down the street or across the globe, is worth more than many sparrows.
If you consider yourself devoted to Jesus, be encouraged that God can and will use you to be the hands + feet to the orphan…when you say yes. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, what your income level is or where your theology or political ideology places you, God is waiting for you to enter into the suffering + redemption of lives, which includes orphan care. He is calling you.
Can you hear it?
I pray for you as you open yourselves up to an amazing, supernatural narrative — that God’s great love for the orphan will echo in your lives as well.
God is vested, deeply and personally, in the plight of the orphan (i.e. Dt 10:18; Ps 68:5-6).
He calls His people to join Him in this, bringing to each parentless child the love of Jesus Christ in both word and deed (Is 1:17; James 1:27; Mt. 10:42; Mt. 25:40).
Most importantly, the Gospel itself is the story of God’s rescue and adoption of us. On Orphan Sunday, the Church is reminded of this beautiful truth and urged to act upon it.
Maybe circumstances are not leading you to adoption, but if you hear those whispers, those soft indications and inklings that there is something more, please be encouraged and know that I would love to talk with you + join you in your journey.
Because I know from experience, God uses those who the world says, ‘Really? Them? But How?’’.
how to get the perfect bun + apply eyeshadow without looking like a clown
There are two things that make a cold, dreary day a little happier: frivolous pretty things, and free things. I hit the jackpot with free frivolous pretty things! (Thanks, Influenster.)
Today, for your reading pleasure, I review two of the fun items in my Beauty Vox Box.
1. Goody Simple Styles Spin Pins
What it is: Two metal springs that keep your hair in a bun, sans hair ties or bobby pins.
First thoughts: Cute idea, but totally not going to work in my layered, fairly thick hair.
How it works: Twirl your hair into a bun, then twist the pins into your hair. Done.
Tips: In the photo, I’m rocking a side bun. (For some reason I dubious about wearing a bun that I can’t see from the front. It feels like I have no hair. Is anyone else this neurotic?) The side bun didn’t hold up throughout the day, but I think that’s due to layers and running errands in the wind. To get my hair out of my face, I pulled my hair into a higher top knot, which stayed in place post-nap and into the evening.
The verdict: It took a couple tries, but it was a success! Perfect for achieving a pulled-together look in about a minute. I look forward to playing with the pins in the future for different looks. I’d rate the pins a B+. They’re $7.29 at your local store.
2. NYC New York Color IndividualEyes Custom Compact
What it is: Eyeshadow compact with four eyeshadows, one illuminator and one primer.
First thoughts: This stuff is cheap and isn’t going to stick!
Tips: I received the compact with a black/gray color palette. While I normally wear black eyeliner and mascara, I stick with easily blended neutral shadows. The first time I attempted a smokey eye with this compact, it was disastrous. I seriously looked like Mimi from The Drew Carey Show. Yikes. It came off easily, thankfully. Don’t put these on heavy handed! The next time I applied, I stuck witha light gray and a tiny dab of black smudged in the corner of my eye. Much better. I wore with Lancome eyeliner and Clinique mascara.
The verdict: For $5, it would be a fun way to add a little drama to your makeup bag. I really like the primer (it helps the shadow stay), and the gray is good for blending. The silver highlighter is a little too middle school for me, and it’s easy to go overboard and end up looking like a Kardashian after a long night out. I’d try it again in a more neutral color palette — the shadow is pretty pigmented, which isn’t always the case when it comes to drugstore makeup. Still, I think quality over quantity applies, which means I’ll probably spend a little more for one shadow and less chemicals rather than less for more shadows and more chemicals. I’d rate it a B-. It goes for $4.99 at most chain retailers.
Not only are Natalie + Dan super talented (Dan is in med school + Natalie has a Master’s in social work), but they are extremely creative as well. (And humble — I’ve known Natalie for awhile, and I’ve never heard her brag about…anything.)
I’m so happy to offer the ‘Get You Here’ screenprinted art as the giveaway!
It was a test print, so it’s actually printed on a stiff, woven fabric. It could easy be framed, trimmed down, or hung on a cork board. (I really want to keep this for myself!)
Here are six different ways to gain entries to the giveaway. (Up your chances of winning by doing them all!)
Tweet it. If you’re on Twitter (and if not, here’s your reason to join!) retweet this: ‘I’m helping an adoption by entering a giveaway to win a one-of-a-kind world map art print. You can, too: http://manysparrows.tumblr.com/post/33922831942/firstevergiveawaygetyouhereworldmapdesignprint #getyouhere' (Twitter will automatically shorten the link, so you should have enough room.) Then, leave a comment letting me know you tweeted.
Watch it. Interested in why a newly-married young couple is adopting? Want to know why they’re adopting internationally? Curious about how the process works? Watch their charming Give1:Save1 video and leave a comment letting me know you’ve watched it (and what you learned from it or liked about it!).
Blog it. If you fancy yourself a blogger, why not spread the word in a post? Share the link in a comment for an entry!
Wear it. For $20, a buttery soft, custom-design (American Apparel) shirt can be yours! (Buy here.) All of the money goes toward adoption expenses. You can opt for a crew neck or v-neck. Check them out, and if you buy one (or two, or three, or four), leave comments letting me know. You’ll get an entry for each shirt you buy!
Give it. If you feel led to bless them by helping financially via PayPal, I know from experience how beyond-words amazing it is to know there are strangers out there who are willing to give out of their hearts + pockets to help a family they might not even know. (Here’s why they’re adopting.) Give a little or a lot, don’t tell me how much, just leave a comment so I know you’ve contributed.
Please leave a comment for each entry. I’ll draw a winner Monday night at 7 p.m. CST and will notify the winner via a blog post.
And if you’re the praying type, I know your prayers for these two little ones are coveted most of all.
Ok, go! And share! Let’s not make this first giveaway a bust!
My lovely friend Natalie might be one of my favorite people. We’ve only got to hang out a handful of times in person, but the Internet has a wonderful way of helping us weave our stories together! She and her husband Dan are 24, newly married, and adopting TWINS from a country in Africa. They’re amazingly creative and are committed to living a Christ-centered life.
They’re an incredible encouragement to us + this video is all-things good. It touches on why they’re adopting, why they’re adopting internationally, and how they’re going to do it.
I really mean it when I say your heart will be full when you watch this!
Our little guy had a bit of a rough morning. He had his two-year shots, which was not fun. (For him, the three nurses holding him down, or his emotional mommy.)
Thankfully, it was over fast and we were on our way home with promises of lots of chocolate.
Lately, he’s been into watching a cake-baking video clip from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. (Yes, that Daniel Tiger from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He’s baaaack! Though, this time he’s animated and much cuter than the puppet of yesteryear.)
So, we baked some totally not homemade still delicious brownies together.
Normally box brownies take about two minutes for me to prep. This took at least 20, and was much messier. (It definitely made me thankful I didn’t take the time following a recipe with him.)
It was fun.
We used the KitchenAid (speaking of KitchenAid, have you heard about this social media fiasco?) mixer to finish it up, but it was fun to see his wheels turning and he got a kick out of mixing the eggs into the mix.
He couldn’t taste the batter (Raw eggs. Jeez. I’m such a mom now.), but he was allowed to sneak a few butterscotch chips. Pure joy, my friends. Pure joy.
As I turned my back and stepped one foot away to the mixer, Joseph decided to take baking into his own hands and dumped the remaining butterscotch chips into the (already greased) pan. So that was fun!
It might have been messy, but it was totally worth it. Joseph and I (and let’s not forget Thomas the Train) had a pretty sweet time together. (See what I did there?)
I think he’s forgotten the pain of the shots.
And I’m totally excited to dig into those ultra-thick brownies.
overcoming mommy guilt: a little moment with a lot of love.
As we were lying in bed last night, I confessed to Jonny that sometimes I don’t feel like a good enough mom. I love our little guy beyond words, and sometimes I feel like he deserves more.
That I should do more.
Create more learning activities. Make healthier food. Be more organized. The list goes on.
Like the awesome husband (and dad) that he is, Jonny reminded me that the best thing I can do for Joseph is ensure that he knows he is loved.
That by just doing our best to love, we are doing OK.
Serving more vegetables and creating a learning environment is great, but so are cuddles and hugs and high-fives and reminding your child that you love him, no matter what.
I fell asleep praying that above all else, I would radiate love. That Joseph would feel and know unconditional love.
This morning, our little two-year-old was watching Thomas the Train in the living room as I got ready in our room. I was putting on my shirt when Joseph threw open the door and tromped into the room. (Still working on boundaries.)
He saw my bare tummy, and playfully smacked it. I looked at him and said, “Oh, Joseph! Remember the baby! Where’s the baby?”
“Baby?” he asked, looking around the room.
“Remember,” I said, placing his chubby hand on my tummy, “there’s a baby growing in Mommy’s tummy.”
His big brown eyes looked up at me, and I could see his gears moving.
He took a moment, and leaned over, grasping his hands around my waist.
And then he planted the sweetest, softest, and longest kiss on my little bump.
At that moment, I could feel nothing but his love.
And at that moment, I knew that he knew he was loved.
Because when you know you’re loved, love flows through you.
We recently moved, and part of turning our house our home has been the tiny tweaks and touches that come from DIY decor. The weather is gorgeous today, and we decided to take advantage of it by making our front door a little more welcoming, just in time for fall.
Jonny repainted the door, which transformed it from a drab + scratched green to a warm + inviting red.
Straw stacks + mini pumpkins gave it a fall vibe without going too Country Home. No scarecrows here.
The paint chip + scrapbook paper bunting (So easy! Just cut triangles, use hole punch, and add to yarn.) used to adorn my kitchen, but I haven’t found a place for it in our new abode. I decided to cut it in half and use it for some fun outdoor decor. (It’s under an awning, so it should be safe from the elements)
5 non-maternity things that have made me feel pretty while pregnant.
Amid migraine headaches + trips to the porcelain goddess, it’s easy dwell on pregnancy woes. I’m now 14 weeks along cookin’ this baby, and my clothes are starting to get a little tighter in the tummy. I know that’s supposed to happen (I’m talking to you, baby who’s the size of an orange!), but still, growing has been a not-so-fun adjustment. It’s hard to feel attractive when you have to inhale deeply and get into a funky yoga position just to button your jeans.
Last week, I was just feeling icky. Like, tired and grumpy but at the same time I was itching to get out and about. But in a small town, there aren’t a ton of places to go to get your extrovert-fix. I kept pulling a Little Mermaid and singing to Jonny, “I want to go, where the people are…I want to see, want to see them daaannnccciing!" (You know you connect with your inner-Ariel, too. No judging here.)
My pining paid off + we went to a nearby city to partake in some much-missed shopping. It just felt, how do I say it? AWESOME to get out and be around all sorts of different types of people. I love our new (very charming!) town, but I also love cities and noises and diversity, and of course, shopping. Speaking of shopping…
I’m sharing my 5 favorite (non-pregnancy!) things that have made me feel pretty while making that transition from first trimester to second trimester!
Belly Bands. Thankfully, I discovered those belly bands I’ve always heard my friends gushing over. I opted for a tan one from Target, and it has been allowing me to wear all of my favorite (skinny!) jeans without buttoning them, and it also smooths out my little bump so it looks more like a baby bump and less like a burrito I had for lunch. I know, this one is a little bit pregnancy-related, but it allows me to avoid those awkward preggo pants, so I’m considering it a win. (And I know..that model in the pic looks weird. I don’t stand there wearing a one-piece bodysuit with my mouth gaping when I’m wearing the band.)
Skinny Belts. I stumbled across searched for some how-to-dress-your-bump blog posts (via Pinterest, of course) and one of my fave tips was to utilize the skinny belt. I stocked up (3 for $10!) and have been loving the look so far. The key is to wear the belt under your chest and over your stomach to cutely frame your bump. It’s nice to feel like I don’t have to wear big shirts + for the most part I can still wear all of my non-maternity shirts, even the tight ones! (Thanks, belly band, for smoothing things out!)
Slouchy Boots. Fall is my fave season, and boots are my fave type of shoe. I recently had to retire my tan boots I got 2 years ago from Old Navy for $25 (they were so awesome but also very cheaply made and I often got my foot stuck in them and Jonny had to pull them off…awkward). Anyway, they literally were falling apart, so it was time for some new ones! I decided to up the ante a bit and get some for a little (but not much) more money to hopefully up the quality. I finally settled on the Olsenboye Cale Slouch Boots. I love the camel color + I even got a belt to match. They look great with skinny jeans, leggings, and tights — perfect for fall layering!
A good DIY mani. Thanks in part to my prenatal vitamins, my nails have been growing faster than I can keep up with them! And they’re strong, too! I don’t wear my nails that long, but I do enjoy painting them. After experimenting with many drugstore brands, I’ve found that it’s better to buy a more expensive brand, and just buy less of it. My recent Target trip left me with Essie’s Sand Tropez. I love the tan/grey color and it stayed on for almost a week with no chips (and that’s with washing my hands 24/7 and chasing after a toddler!) There’s no way I can afford to have my nails professionally done, but a nail file + 20 minutes of me time leads to pretty decent nails + a happier mommy, which is happier for everyone. :)
Pretty jewelry. I’ve been eying the Chubby Bird Fossil necklace for a while, and on a whim, I found it clearanced for $11! Yay! I love the delicate chain, and as the blog title shows, I love what birds can symbolize. On days when I’m feeling frazzled, a pretty necklace dresses up my sleepy eyes and oatmeal-stained shirts.
So, there you go, ladies. Five girly things that have lifted my spirits lately.
Pregnant or not, do you you have some go-to garb for when you’re feelin’ low? I’d love to know!
I took an unplanned blogging hiatus for most of the summer/early fall. Amid packing, planning to move, moving, unpacking, working, entertaining a toddler 24/7, diving into a new ministry, and discovering that we are expecting (!!!), there hasn’t been a lot of leftover time to write.
Though all good things have kept me from blogging, I’m kind of bummed. Because I love writing.
But now that we’re settling into our new home and the morning sickness is subsiding, I’m eager to get back in the saddle. And luckily, having lots of busy transitions in life leads to a lot of blog fodder. (Plus, I don’t really have many new friends in our new small town, so…there’s gotta be time somewhere to write.)
A good sign that you’re a writer is that you have a deep desire to write. You need it. You pen memoirs in your head while changing diapers. (What? Just me?) For me, documenting my life on the World Wide Webs is more about therapy + transparency than it is about pageviews + rising to the top of the blogosphere.
(Which is great, because I’m pretty sure my readership is…lacking.)
From my energetic two-year-old’s antics to my big transition to small-town Iowa, I think I have enough inspiration for a somewhat entertaining blog.
I’ve always been a huge fan of iced tea. So refreshing with just a hint of caffeine, there is nothing quite like a tall glass of freshly brewed, unsweetened (yes, I just went there) iced tea.
Brewing it at home has always seemed kind of stressful and intimidating, until I tried these instructions. No sun or boiling water required, and this method works instantly (without having to use the kinda-gross-gritty-instant variety.
Put in 2 teaspoons of loose tea or 2 tea bags for every cup (8 oz) of tea.
Fill your pitcher or glass halfway with hot water.
Let the tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on personal preference.
Fill the pitcher or glass up the rest of the way with cold water, then take out the tea leaves or bags.
Pour your tea over ice and serve.
I’ve been known to get real wild and mix it up with flavored teas. I recently tried Stash Tea Superfruits Tea sampler, and I’d recommend it! While some of the flavors were a little much (here’s lookin’ at you, blueberry), I thought they were super refreshing + a good non-soda, non-alcoholic, no-calorie option for a tasty summer drink! $3.50 for 18 bags of tea definitely beats shelling out the same amount of cash at Starbucks for one drink.
[Influenster provided me with a bar of Ivory soap for testing purposes, but thoughts are my own.]
5 unexpected things to do with ivory soap: the many uses of ivory soap
When you think of Ivory soap, what do you think of? I remember my mom always saying, “So pure, it floats!” But other than that, I think of an outdated means of getting clean. In a world of 1,000 different types of body wash cluttering our shower, what’s the point of an old-school bar of soap?
I was kind of surprised of all of the ways a simple bar of soap can be used. Sometimes I get in a Pioneer-Woman-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder kick where I want to do things as simply + affordably as possible, so making laundry detergent is an option I’m looking forward to trying. I also can’t wait to microwave a bar + let Joseph dig in. (Cheap + clean entertainment, folks!)
So, without further ado, 5 things to do with Ivory soap:
Blow it up in the microwave. Ivory soap is so “pure it floats” because of the air bubbles. Microwave it + the result is very similar to what happens when popcorn pops or when you try to microwave a marshmallow. Those air bubbles in the soap (or the popcorn kernels or the marshmallow) contain water and expand when heated in the microwave, making a giant cloud science experiment for kids. (Just be sure they don’t sneak some in their mouth!)
DIY shampoo.Lacking shine? This blogger claims that vinegar + ivory soap do the trick. I’m a little dubious, but I’ve been hearing good things about shampoo alternatives, so it might be worth a shot!
Bath crayons.If your little one needs an incentive to jump in the tub, these DIY bath crayons could be a lifesaver. Grab a grater, a bar of Ivory soap, some food coloring, and a little water, and go! These seem so easy + fun — and no strange chemicals, either!
Facial cleanser.This blogger claims she tried all the good-for-you, all-organic facial cleansers, with no luck. On a whim, she went old school with a bar of Ivory soap, and it took care of her pizza face (haha, too much?). The thought of using bar soap on my face kind of weirds me out, but hey, whatever floats your boat. (Get it?! FLOATS!)
Also, I love the smell of this classic soap. :)
[Influenster and Ivory provided me with a bar of Ivory soap for testing purposes through the Mom VoxBox program, but thoughts are my own.]
fear, international adoption, + learning from martyrs.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. Fear of letting go of comforts. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. Fear of being a hypocrite. Fear of missing out on the story God is writing. Fear of shouting too loudly. Fear of being too quiet. Fear of risking it all. Fear of losing it all. Fear of succumbing to fear.
Fear is a tricky thing.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the struggle than an American couple had/is having to finalize their adoption in Ghana. (If not, you can read about it here.) The things they’ve experienced (and probably are still experiencing) are scary, to say the least.
As soon as I found out that the family was getting detained, I shared a call for others to get on their knees + pray for everyone involved.
Fear reared its ugly head.
I heard these things about international adoption from people I love:
"It’s not even worth it."
"Don’t you know this could have happened to you?!"
"International adoption just isn’t safe!"
I can tell you right now, with tears in my eyes, that it is worth it. It could have happened to me. And yes, this life isn’t safe. But we still step forward.
The Creator, and his created, are worth every sacrifice.And from experience, when awful things happen (and they will, because we live in a broken world), it is not the end. I’m just 24, and I have so much to learn, but something that I’m learning is that despite it all, the abundant blessings + joys that come from obedience and love is just…incredible.
I recently learned about Perpetua and Felicity, young women who were martyred in Rome in the third century. Their stories are incredible, and they exemplify courage.
In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus’ persecution.
Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live — including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.
Perpetua’s answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, “See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?”
Her father answered, “Of course not.” Perpetua responded, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am — a Christian.”
This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days — even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment.
Perpetua was arrested with Felicity, who was her slave.
The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua “had never known such darkness.” The guards were violent. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.
Felicity was even worse off for Felicity suffered the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling while being eight months pregnant.
Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her "my prison suddenly became a palace for me.” Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We lie not in our own power but in the power of God."
When she and the others were taken to be examined and sentenced, her father followed, pleading with her and the judge. The judge, out of pity, also tried to get Perpetua to change her mind, but when she stood fast, she was sentenced with the others to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.
Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom. Her friends also didn’t want to leave such “good a comrade” behind.
Two days before the execution, Felicity went into labor. Felicity said, “Now I’m the one who is suffering, but in the arena Another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for him.”
She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.
The Christians and their teacher went to the arena with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. Ancient writings say she walked with
"shining steps as the true wife of Christ, the darling of God."
The women were stripped to face a rabid cow. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as their throats were cut.
Perpetua’s last words were to her brother: “Stand fast in the faith and love one another.”
[Story shortened from an abridged telling here. I suggest reading her journal entries yourself.]
Actually, I think that deserves another wow.
And maybe one more for good measure.
Puts things in perspective.
In the midst of such atrocities, in the middle of violence and agony, there is peace. We are refined by fire, and the picture of what losing your life to gain it is becoming so much more clear.
Not succumbing to fear doesn’t mean not having any, it means trusting something — someone — far greater. Not having trust in the what, where, or why, but having trust in the who. And seeing sacrificial love as an honor. A privilege.
Risking everything the world holds high isn’t logical. It doesn’t make sense. The world [and so many in the Church] asks, why? Why spend all of your money, time, emotions, status on something someone not guaranteed? Why travel somewhere unsafe? Why adopt children when you can have a baby? Why bother with racial differences? Why? Why? Why?
I love what Jesus says to his disciples in John 14 when they’re asking him so many of whys:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.[John 14:1-27, NIV, emphasis mine]
Doesn’t Jesus address so many of our fears? God is with us. God doesn’t give as the world gives. Some people won’t understand. Don’t let our hearts be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Obey. Follow him. He is here, he is mysterious, and he is good.
Like so many other life-altering experiences (marriage, divorce, disease, accidents, birth, death) international adoption addresses fear head-on.
When Jonny and I reflect on our experience with international/transracial adoption, so many intense emotions, memories, and fears are drudged up from that deep place inside of ourselves that rarely sees the light of day in polite conversation.
And through all of the tears, the fights, the past, present and future fears, I look at my son, toddling out of his bedroom, still in a nap-induced haze, with big eyes and a smile as he runs toward me with open arms.
Yes, he is worth it.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. [james 1:1-18, the message, emphasis mine]
Statistics and numbers and pictures of sad + lonely children can overwhelm us. We feel disconnected. We know that the multitude of orphans is sad and it’s wrong and it’s not what God intended, but we feel a disconnect. A void. How could we possibly help? How do we do more than put a band-aid on the hurt?
I’ve recently been introduced to the story of sweet Esther in Uganda. She is a little one with special needs who has been waiting awhile for a forever-family to love her…and God has come through in a big way! I am also excited because the family happens to live in Iowa. (Represent!)
I heard someone say this, and I think it’s 100 percent true:
"Really the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just saying yes."
It only takes a few yes moments for God to work in amazing ways in our ordinary lives. Please consider spreading the word + maybe donating a few bucks to very tangibly help this little girl get the care she needs + the love God has always intended for her. You can do so here. (And in the meanwhile, be eligible for sweet swag, including an iPad, custom clothes, artisan jewlery, etc!)
Here are the deets from another blog:
who is ready to help Esther HOME with the dad, mom & siblings that already
love her so much?! they just returned home to iowa & will return for Esther’s court date
in just a couple weeks. you don’t know who Esther is? you can read about her on my blog by clicking her tag at the bottom of this post. you can follow her family’s journey here.
the short version is that Esther is a little girl that has lived in Clayton’s former orphanage
for 3 years where she arrived weighing little more than a newborn at age 3. she has waited
and waited and God has finally brought her forever family. she is so loved & cherished
by them. of course, adoption is expensive [especially when it is moving so quick] and in
order for the family to pay for the adoption expenses and to properly prepare things for some of Esther’s special needs, let’s help Esther’s adoption fund!
But someday we might be. And learning about it is super interesting and important. Jonny + I took a class in college about reproduction and the politics of motherhood, and it was seriously enlightening.
This article from Consumer Reports is worth reading. I think it does a great job of presenting facts and interviews in an unbiased fashion.
Parents can get super passionate on the choices that they make, and I’m not judging anyone. But I think the one of the best things you can do as a parent is to become educated and informed about how to keep your children healthy and loved, and if your children enter your family biologically, part of that is doin’ a little research about how your little ones enter the world.
Here’s an excerpt to get you started:
Despite a health-care system that outspends those in the rest of the world, infants and mothers fare worse in the U.S. than in many other industrialized nations. The infant mortality rate in Canada is 25 percent lower than it is in the U.S.; the Japanese rate, more than 60 percent lower. According to the World Health Organization, America ranks behind 41 other countries in preventing mothers from dying during childbirth.
With technological advances in medicine, you would expect those numbers to steadily improve. But the rate of maternal deaths has risen over the last decade, and the number of premature and low-birth-weight babies is higher now than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.
Why are we doing so badly? Partly because mothers tend to be less healthy than in the past, “which contributes to a higher-risk pregnancy,” says Diane Ashton, M.D., deputy medical director of the March of Dimes.
But another key reason appears to be a health-care system that has developed into a highly profitable labor-and-delivery machine, operating according to its own timetable rather than the less predictable schedule of mothers and babies.
book review: the search for god and guinness by stephen mansfield
Confession: I read this book two years ago.
I found the story of Guinness family’s altruistic efforts so compelling that I lent it to a favorite friend and forgot about it. She recently texted me about a dream she had regarding me and Guinness-flavor cupcakes (?), which triggered my memory of The Search for God and Guinness and how much I liked it. And so I thought I’d share a little review of the book.
Stephen Mansfield effortlessly outlines the Guinness family members’ hearts for Jesus in an under-resourced Dickensian Ireland. Drinking water was awful. Living conditions were worse. Men were overworked, women were suffering, children were hungry. Workers were drunk. The idea of God was distant and laughable. (Yikes. How’s that for a mental picture?)
Throughout the “biography of beer,” Mansfield chronicles a history of how one of the world’s most recognizable brands has Christian roots. How the beer was brewed in an attempt to provide factory workers with something decent to drink that wouldn’t make them completely shwastey like the moonshine they were chugging. How Guinness families paved the way for social services, giving employees and their communities dignity through education, health care, and the arts. How evangelizing + imbibing somehow made sense.
Whether you’re a history nerd, a craft-brew guru or a staunch prohibitionist, the book is well worth a read. The book is super informational and steeped in history, making it a genuinely interesting book to flip through, whether or not you drink or are a Christian.
Cheers! (Too much?)
[Full disclosure: BookSneeze provided me an advanced copy.]
The mommy wars have me thinking about what it’s like to be a work-at-home mom (WAHM), an awesomely tiring combo of being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and working mom (is there a mommmy blogger abbreviation for that?).
Before getting into this, I feel like I have to say that I give a giant standing ovation to all moms who love their kids and parent to the best of their abilities. I’m still learning that being a mom is beyond-words wonderful and difficult all at the same time, and I know that every family is different. OK, so no judging here.
At different times in my life, I’ll probably experience being a full-on stay-at-home mom and a work-in-an-office mom. Right now, on this day, in this moment, you could/can call me a work-at-home mom.
But what is a work-at-home mom?
That’s a good question.
Most conversations with acquaintances usually tend to follow one of two formats:
Person: So, how do you like being a stay-at-home mom?
Me: Well, I actually work from home, too. It’s stressful but great!
Person: Hi, Kayla! Good to see you!
Me: Hi, person!
Person: So, what are you doing?
Me, to myself: Well, this morning I was planning a content schedule, grocery shopping, writing an e-newsletter, visiting the pediatrician, wiping my son’s nose…
Me, to person: I work remotely and stay home with Joseph.
Honestly, neither of these conversations bother me. Unless you have experience being a parent and freelancing/working from home, it wouldn’t be fair to expect folks to understand.
I’m a weird mix of both, but it works. I get to experience life with my son, and I’m thankful to have a gig with a flexible schedule that I can do remotely.
Sometimes, I’m stressed. Really stressed. Sometimes I feel really guilty for being on my computer and plopping my son in front of Curious George. Sometimes I feel really guilty for taking my son to the park and not working on that newsletter. It’s a balance that is new every day.
I will now be slightly self-indulgent and let you know what being a work-from-home mom currently looks like for me:
What I do: Edit magazine print content for Web, plan and write e-newsletters, and tackle story assignments for various media outlets as they pop up. (I don’t know if this sounds fun to you, but it is! Now you know I’m a nerd.)
How often I do it: I work about 20 hours per week (give or take).
When I do it: My laptop is never far from me. I work during naptime, in the evening, and on weekends. Friends & fam fill in and watch the little one during in-office meetings. Sometimes I have conference calls while simultaneously cooking chicken nuggets and serving mac + cheese.
Working from home means that your office looks like this:
We’ll be spending Memorial Day weekend 2012 in Philadelphia!
Can’t you just hear the Rocky theme? Adrian!
On top of the cheesesteaks we’ll be chowing and the patriotic sites we’ll be perusing (‘MERICA!), I’m most excited to see some of our besties who moved to Pennsylvania last year.
Yay for friends!
You may be thinking, you guys aren’t ballers, how will you pay for said trip?
You may also remember that in 2011, we traveled to Nigeria twice…and we now have enough miles to visit our friends for free! Woohoo! Budget-friendly fun is totes how we roll.
Since I’m slightly neurotic, I’ve started a Google doc with must-stop visits (Liberty Bell, Geno’s Steaks, museum steps a-la Rocky, etc). I’ve also checked out the design*sponge Philadelphia guide, (picture above is from the guide!) but it’s slightly dated and while super hipster, probably not super toddler-friendly.
Here’s my question: As Philly newbies, where should we visit? Any need-to-try eateries? Stores we must stop by? (I do know that the Anthropologie flagship store is in Philly bursting with three stories of goodness. Holla!)
We’ll have 2 days in the city and two days a little further west in Pennsylvania. We’re throwing around the idea visiting Hershey Park (COASTER CITY!), but that could be tough to navigate with the under-2 set. (And between us + our buddies, we’ll have two under two.) We’ve thought about Sesame Place, but I’m not sure Joseph is really old enough to get it, and it could be enough to make us want to ban Elmo for good.
We’re thinking about staying in a boutique hotel near Christ Church in the Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. It seems like a good mix of location, charm, and affordability.
Through some Instagram stalking, I recently found myself at Oh So Lovely Vintage. I am now officially obsessed, and if I lived in Canada, I’d go into their shop every day until we became besties. Is that creepy?
The blog/shop/mobile vintage shop in a renovated 1956 camper trailer is exactly what I would dream + design if I were talented enough to do so. It’s ran by two ladies who are just a year older than me (youngsters, unite!), and they really have an eye for pretty things. I wish they’d come decorate my casa!
Lately we’ve hit a bout of bad bumps, and the site has offered me a blissful break from the bummers that life seems to be bouncing my way lately.
The sunnyside up is that I now feel inspired to craft a post about a few of my favorite things, vintage edition. I don’t want to get you too excited, but it does feature everything from an orange estate sale chair to vintage Scandinavian-ispired pyrex I scored at an auction.
Anywhoozle, the site really covers lots of my likes, and you should check it out and then go thrifting with me.
Also, I’m wearing polkadot shorts today. And my fringe looks like this:
Jonny, Joseph and I spent the day around Iowa with Congressman Bruce Braley, who played a big part in helping Joseph come home.
(Click the link above or go here to see the video.)
Braley announced the Make Adoption Affordable Act today.
The bill will be introduced in Congress next week and will expand + extend the current $12,360 adoption tax credit, which is set to expire this year.
Finances can beare a huge obstacle to adopting. It’s pretty safe to say that most families who adopt make a lot of financial sacrifices (which are 100 percent worth it!), and this act would definitely be a huge help.
We try to be very conscious about details of Joseph’s story and respecting his privacy, and we felt comfortable sharing a bit of how we became a family in support of the adoption credit.
The day began with a small conference in my parents’ living room at their house in Waterloo. It was an early morning, but Joseph woke up everyone by pretending my lapel mic was Chapstick. Where does he come up with this stuff?! He was a natural with the mic and wooed the cameras — such an extrovert when he wants to be!
I’m used to being the interviewer, not the interviewee. Awkward!
Luckily, if you know me, you know I like to talk. And there’s not much I like to talk more about than Joseph. Here’s the story about the Make Adoption Affordable Act from the WCF Courier. KWWL also ran a story about the bill, which you can catch here.
Our next stop was in Cedar Rapids, where our little man was so well-behaved! Proud Mama right here. Here’s the story from KGAN — the end almost made me cry. How perfect is that exchange of looks between Joseph & Jonny?
Our last stop was Des Moines! Joseph was tired (OK, we all were) but still cute as ever (I can’t say the same for myself). It was held at the library’s central campus, and WHO-TV ran a story tonight (not online yet — sorry!). My old stomping grounds, The Des Moines Register, was there, too, so maybe we’ll see a little something in the paper tomorrow.
I hope that we were able to be an OK representation of the many families who foster + adopt. I hope that the bill leads to more loving families for the many waiting kids in our state, country, and world.
For awhile, I insulated myself from the Trayvon Martin story. I didn’t want to read a story about a young man being gunned down while his killer walked free. I didn’t have the desire to hear the details of another injustice in a world already filled with so much hatred. I didn’t want to read about…
My husband wrote this, and I echo every sentiment.
super easy spring lemon cookies (from a cake mix!)
That’s a lemon cake cookie. (Ohmyword YUM.)
When my kitchen counters are glistening, I have this inexplicable desire to bake. Kind of counter-intuitive (pun!) but I chose a really easy recipe that left me with only a handful of dirty utensils — and stellar results. If you haven’t tried cake cookies before, you are seriously missing out. Because they are no-fail and seriously so good.
I wanted something light & springy, so I opted for a lemon cake mix.
The easy recipe: I rolled the dough (just add 1/3 cup oil + 2 eggs) into small, 1/2 inch balls and baked at 350 for 7-8ish minutes (they should be a little gooey when you take them out) on an ungreased sheet. This yielded about 50 fluffy, round cookies.
The icing on the cake (cookies): Canned frosting was on sale, so I decided to forgo making my own and opted for the lazy easy option of Whipped Pillsbury Frosting. Transferred into a Ziploc baggie, snipped a corner, and piped all the cookies in about 60 seconds. (Speedy, simple & so cute!) I topped with dotted sprinkles from Target’s Easter section.
What they’re good for: The small, bite-size look would make them super cute for a baby shower, kids’ birthday bash, or an Easter party. They almost look like mini cupcakes, but with a soft cookie texture!
Thoughts from the taste-tester (er, husband): “It was an honor to put that in my mouth. I will eat them all.”
A gazillion Google searches on my quest to find the perfect bangs have drummed up a few ideas.
The star of my bang inspiration board is Zooey. (Shocker.) I think the thickness of her fringe would work well for me (i.e weigh down the cowlick). Right now, my hair color is closer to JLo’s, but her bangs are a little wispy for my taste. I also want face-framing pieces + then longer layers — making it cute to throw up (2, 5, 8). My favorite look is 1, because I’m not a huge fan of bangs being piecey (though I know that’s kind of inevitable.)
Okay, so what do you think? Seriously…I want to know. Please tell me.
I’ve had sweepy side bangs for a year. And now, ladies and gents, I’m ready to go all in (and finally forget the thick, cowlicky mess I rocked in 1997). The last time I had bangs, I heavily relied on butterfly clips, so I’m going to need some help in the hair department. Justine utilizes the blogosphere to combat hair woes + has inpsired me to do the same, especially when it comes to achieving the thick, straight-across fringe I’m stressing about dreaming of. But before I post on stresses about my future tresses (see what I did there?), here’s a glimpse into my year of half-bangs. What do you think? Does any of this give any clues as to how to procure the perfect cut for summer 2012? Help?!
When: February 2011. Where:Spoken fundraiser show. Color: Dark Auburn. Bangs: Short, thin fringe. They always got piecey in a weird spot — see photo.
When: April 2011. Where: My baby shower. Color: Dark Auburn — lightened from the sun. Bangs: Thicker and fuller, fairly styled.
When: June 2011. Where:Ashley’s wedding. Color: Lighter Auburn. Bangs: Very thick, blown out + styled.
When: August 2011. Where: Lagos, Nigeria. Color: Light brown with thin ombre highlights (Hard to tell in the pic.) I loved them. Go to Amber and have them done. Now. Bangs: Growing out, parted to include layers for a look of thicker bangs.
When: September 2011. Where:Family pics. Color: Light brown with thin ombre highlights. Bangs: Side-sweep, trimmed + styled.
When: October 2011. Color: Ombre highlights growing out, looking more golden. Hair lighter from sun.
When: November 2011. Color: Looking even more golden, longer, roots darker.
When: December 2011. Where:Natalie’s wedding. Color: Highlights getting to the point that bangs are barely colored. Parted far to the side for a sweeping look to accompany a twisted up-do.
When: Today! Color: I recently did an at-home cool, medium brown color to get rid of the brass. Bangs are growing out.
Lent. A time on the Church calendar nudging those who follow Jesus to look inwardly + upwardly.
Whatever your faith [or lack thereof] looks like, introspection is intriguing — attractive, even.
The rough part: Actually wading in that murky tension of who you are, who you want to be, and who you were created to be.
My favorite seminarian has written a couple thoughts on lent for our friend’s blog, Creative Theology. I think they’re worth reading. I’ve included the links + intros.
A New Take on Lent - Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of lent-love in the Craig home. Raised Baptist, I mostly (errantly) believed that Lent was a silly form of legalism created by the Catholic church to keep people afraid and in line. With little-to-no knowledge of the early church or even the fact that it’s not just Catholics who celebrate the Lenten season (whaaaaa?!), it was simpler for me to marginalize the belief and practices of others than to be self-reflective.
On Sin and Lent:How do I empty me of… me? When I investigate my innermost desires, I believe I can say honestly that I want to be a vessel from which God pours our healing to the world. But how?
We’re so thrilled to share that we’re moving (yes, moving!) to Colorado to join in the ministry at Mountair Christian Church, a diverse congregation in urban Denver.
Currently, Jonny is working at a bank while finishing up his M.A. in theology. For a while, he was feeling God strongly leading him to enter the ministry. And for a while, he struggled to pinpoint a position where he could most effectively be used.
After a lot of prayer, we both came to the conclusion that the right situation for Jonny would be as an assistant pastor at an older, smaller church that was serious about re-imagining its mission and reaching out to its community.
Soon after, we (well, I…let’s be honest) stumbled across an opening at Mountair Christian Church, who was looking for someone to help the church develop a faithful presence as a Gospel community, seeking redemption and reconciliation in the name of Jesus. Responsibilities would focus on community mission, pastoral care, vision implementation, and family ministry.
Jonny sent his resume on December 19th, and by January 5th, the applicant pool had been whittled down to five. Jonny and Mountair’s pastor, Trevor, Skyped on January 10th, and both expressed that they felt like this was the fit God intended. A few weeks later, Jonny interviewed with the search committee and we were invited on an official visit.
In February, we had the opportunity to visit the wonderful people at Mountair and got to spend some quality time with Trevor and his family. We met the church board + explored a little bit of the city. The board unanimously voted for Jonny to join the staff as associate pastor, and we are so humbled by the way God has taken care of us in the process. God could have called us to the middle of nowhere, and we would have definitely followed, but he so generously is allowing us to join a ministry we dreamed about, in a cool city with a stunning view, no less!
With every change, no matter how awesome and how Spirit-led, comes a lot of feelings and emotions. We’ll miss our family, friends, friends-who-feel-more-like-family, and our church family. No need to get sappy or sentimental now, but know that we love Iowa, love the people in Iowa, and love our city in Iowa (We went to college here, got engaged here, spent our first 3.5 years of marriage here, bought our first home here, got first jobs here, became parents here…lots of firsts, huh?) We also love that God is an awesome heavenly father who is helping us pen a new chapter in our journey.
The Dirty Deets
Our moving date depends on when we sell our house! We’re hoping to head to the mile-high city by the end of April. I also feel really fortunate that I’ll be able to continue my editing job from Denver. We’re also still working on finding somewhere to live once we get there. There is so much change going on, we could use your prayers during this transition. Go ahead, pull a Tebow for us.
The Next Step
We really believe in what Trevor and Michelle are doing, what the people of Mountair are doing, and what God is doing (and going to do) at Mountair, and we feel very blessed that God has allowed us to be part of it.
Joseph and I just got home from “Fun with One” story time at the library. It would rank high on the list of Stuff White People Like.
I felt like I was back in middle school, the new girl awkwardly trying to find the right room and blend in with the right people, all while everyone else already has friends because they all went to elementary school together.
We arrived at the library precisely at 10 a.m. (Those familiar with our usual morning routine should be super impressed, as we’re usually not showered until early afternoon.) We milled about the kids’ area to kill time, and at 10:12, we headed to the main atrium/reading room in the kids’ area.
No one was there.
Did I read the wrong time? Was reading hour canceled this week? 10:15 came and went. Still no other kids. No parents. No teacher.
I scooped up Joseph and sheepishly asked the overseers of the kids’ area, “Ummm, is there a story time today?” They both looked at me, half with sympathy and half with condescending librarian eyes, and said it was held on the other side of the library in the main conference room, obviously. The female librarian glanced at the clock and surmised that we could still make it, if we hustled, of course.
It was like being late for homeroom all over again.
After navigating the library with my curious 1.5-year-old in tow, we stood in front of the french doors to Conference Room 1. I took a deep breath and opened the door. Wrong one. Locked. Now everyone knew there was someone late, someone who was loudly attempting to break in. I clumsily tried the other door. Success. Whew.
My eyes fell on a giant circle of 30-something moms (and a few progressive dads, including a red-headed guy donning a shirt that boasted, RELIGIOUS LEFT), sitting cross-legged with babes perched on their laps. They were singing about washing faces in the morning or something. At least 50 people, each with their mini-me babies, singed and swayed.
I spotted an open space in the ring and joined with Joseph on my lap, cheeks warm with that all-eyes-on-you feeling. Was it because we were late, or because Joseph was the only dark-skinned kid?Was I just being paranoid? I bumbled through the ultra-cheesy verses about basic hygiene and Joseph kept looking at everyone and then glancing back at me. Really mom? Really?
My neighbor to the right sensed my trepidation (intimidation?).
"Hello. Your first time here?" An English accent whispered. Oooh, cool. I thought. She’s so Masterpiece Theater! I came back with a really talkative answer. “Yep.”
She asked me what my son’s name was, to which I replied with another lengthy answer: “Joseph.” What was wrong with me? Why was I being so awkward?!
"This is Elizabeth, and I’m Sarah.” Oooh, fail. She wanted to know my name. That was the moment I realized “Fun with One” might really be geared toward mommies interested in finding a friend. I went along with it and told her it was nice to meet her.
"How old is he?" She asked as Joseph clung to my lap, giving me confused looks as the tots were told to practice opening their mouths. (What?) "Oh, he’s about 19 months," I answered. "Wow! I thought he was 2 and a half!" She retorted. Yes, lady, I know my kid is big. Thank you for pointing out yet another reason we don’t fit in here, I thought to myself. Wait…story time was for kids 18-24 months…was she alluding that my kid was too big to be here?Oh no you didn’t! I smiled and nodded, trying to master the weird actions to go along with the song the chubby, over-enthusiastic librarian was now leading.
Activities changed approximately every 2.5 seconds (How amazing that we diagnose so many kids with ADHD!) and Joseph was skeptical about them all. He even made attempted a quick escape to the door, and I was tempted to run right out with him, picking up my purse after story hour was over.
We settled back into our spot and I feigned interest in the adventures of Maisy. We chased bubbles. We did a strange dance with scarves. We played with a felt board. (And read only one book?)
Joseph had brief moments of joy, but when story time came to a close and we began “structured free play” Joseph quickly grabbed his jacket, announced “Coooat!” and proceeded to attempt to put it on. As I helped him, I chatted a bit more with my English frenemy, and Joseph bolted for the door.
Loud quiet.That’s what fills the silence most days. Glancing through Twitter feeds, scrolling through Facebook updates. Joseph plays and I half-heartedly watch, glancing at my right hand, never without my iPhone. Always updated, always connected, alwaysmostly present.
My iPhone. My glorious, glorious iPhone. The handheld device connecting with me never-ending streams of updates — and a disconnecting me from the present.
Quick quips from online personas are not real life. As soon as it’s posted, another takes its place. For me, they’ve become a toxic time suck — a gateway into a land where I can judge + roll my eyes, all from the safety of my phone. All while missing out on seeing my son match the fire truck puzzle piece into the puzzle.
I don’t want to waste my time scrolling through 140 characters.
I’m ungluing. I deleted Twitter + Facebook for 40 days.
Disconnecting so I can connect.
This is nothing new. I know. People do it all the time.
But I never have. I don’t want to, but I need to.
Because I want and needto spend quality, undistracted time with my family. My friends. My savior.
What better time than the lenten season?
I don’t want to waste my little bits of free time Facebook stalking. I have an amazing son to teach + cuddle + love + watch grow. A husband to laugh + dream with. Friends to confide in + encourage. And on a more practical level, toys to pick up + laundry to fold. (Can I get an amen?!)
The temptation to sneak a peak has already been difficult. It’s so much more convenient to flip through the noise of a Twitter stream than it is to wrestle with the silence of God. Or to actually spend time being.
Here’s to reflection. To looking inward instead of watching from the outside. To fasting from the noise to hear what really matters.
I woke up this morning to big brown eyes staring at me. A round little body in dinosaur footie pajamas sprawled on my pillow. Soft, chubby fingers gently touching my face. I spent this cold February morning under warm blankets, cuddling with an astonishingly cute and incredibly curious 18-month-old.
I changed a couple of dreadfully dirty diapers. Used thousands of tissues to wipe his runny nose. Exhausted every trick convincing him to drink his apple juice.
I started this Valentine’s Day the same way I start every day. By being Joseph’s mom.
My commitment to meal planning + recipe-trying actually worked, at least for week one. I tried three new dinner recipes, and from the lack of leftovers, me thinks they turned out pretty well.
Taco Skillet Pie: super easy. yields a ton. yummy. big win. recipe from parents magazine.
BBQ Pork Sandwiches: easy. healthy. first time at making my own barbecue sauce. tasty but wanted more spice. photo from when jonny took leftovers to work. recipe from parents magazine.
Chicken with Apples and Sage: peppers + apples = must-try combo. omitted sage due to picky eaters. served with rice. yummy but chicken was a little chewy (?). from bhg new dieter’s cookbook. [sorry, i can’t find a pic!]
I have about 11 months to check 25 bullets off my to-do list before I celebrate my 25th birthday.
I’ve had the honor of being part of some beautiful stories in my 24 years, but I don’t want to dwell too much on the past that I miss the beauty of the present, or the future.
I’m working on what I’ve coined my '25 by 25' list.
My tangible goals, in no particular order:
Take Ruby the Dog on two walks a week. With illusive daylight and an inquisitive toddler, this poses a challenge. I think this means I have to wake up early, while Jonny + Joseph are still sleeping, in order to make this a reality. I don’t do mornings well, so this could prove impossible. But good for Ruby, because she is getting chub-by. Probably couldn’t hurt me, either.
Climb a mountain. I know. But for 24 years, I’ve lived in the Midwest. I want the challenge (because let’s face it, no matter the size of the mountain, it will be a challenge — I’m no athlete) but mostly, I want to stand atop and feel it. Ya feel me?
Try real sushi. And I just heard a collective gasp from all of my cool friends. Actually, probably from all of my friends, since I am really late to jump on this bandwagon. Yes, you’ve read it here first, folks. Rolled up goo has never graced my mouth. I had a sample of something resembling sushi at Costco once, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count. Sushi become so mythicized now that I don’t really know what to expect. There’s a lot of pressure. What kind? What restaurant?!
Write Joseph’s story. The whole story. Beginning to end. I’m not sure we’ve even processed all of the ins + outs, highs + lows. A gazillion emotions are wrapped up in the story, moments painful to relive and moments absolutely bursting with joy. It’s daunting because there’s just so much to tell. But for Joseph’s sake, I need to start the process now, while it’s still fresh.
Compile Joseph’s baby book. Similar, but not the same as writing his story. His baby book is just like any other, except it focuses on his first year with us, instead of his first year of his life. We have hundreds upon hundreds of photos, documents, sheets, passports, stamps and momentos that it’s also daunting to start this project. But it’s a must-do this year.
Create our wedding album. I’m starting to sense a theme here. But seriously, Jonny and I will celebrate our fourth anniversary this year. I need to just get on Shutterfly and order a stinkin’ photo album before we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary. Procrastination, you can’t hold me down!
Pay off my student loans. This is a slightly lofty aspiration because I don’t exactly have a small amount of student loans to pay off. Also because any + all savings we might have had last year went toward Joseph. But these monthly bills would be sososo great to erase forever.
Start an adoption savings. Also in the money management realm. I know that when God tells you to do something, you do it. And he will see it through. He did it before and he will do it again. While Jonny and I feel like we’ll eventually be led to add to our family adoption again, now is not the time. But, now is the time to save. How amazing would it be to have a fund for when God says ‘now’? Also, I’d love to pull from this set-aside fund to support others.
Try a new recipe every week. Before becoming a mom, nutrition, cooking time + cost of food weren’t things I really thought of when making dinner. But with a picky (and growing) eater and a cramped schedule, these are much more important to me now. I have a multitude of amazing cookbooks + recipe apps, so I really have no reason not to try something new. Plus, I love feeding the people I love.
Meal plan + grocery shop every Sunday. In our pre-kid days, Jonny and I flew by the seat of our pants when it came to suppertime. We’d get home from work, stomachs a-rumblin’, and make a fast, last-minute dinner decision that usually meant an unexpected trip to the grocery store at least a few nights a week. That time has definitely passed. After picking 5 weeknight meals, I want to make an itemized grocery list — and then immediately go shopping. I think it’ll be cost-effective and time-saving.
Make lasagna. I absolutely love my mom’s lasagna. In college, I’d come home and beg her to make it so I could jam all the leftovers in my mini fridge. A pan lasted me about two days. It’s seriously thatgood. Which is why I’ve avoiding trying my hand at it. Such a basic dish, you say. Yes, but why mess with perfection? Well, because I miss eating it and I don’t have her as my personal chef. If it fails, it fails. And I probably won’t document it on the Interwebs.
Bake a pie. A real pie. Not a Jello instant pudding pie or a pre-fab cheesecake, but a real, up-to-your-elbows-in-flour type of pie. My mother-in-law is seriously the pie queen, which is why I haven’t even attempted to bake one. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration (hardy, har, har) but as summer rolls around, nothing compares to a rhubarb pie. Seriously. Nothing. Again, if I fail, I will not be documenting it. You’ll be able to find me holding my knees, rocking back-and-forth in the corner, repeating, “I’ll never be your mother! I’ll never be your mother!” <— Just made myself LOL.
Incorporate Common Prayer into my daily routine. We’ve had the book for about a year now, but it has been dutifully collecting dust, waiting to really be cracked open. Something about liturgy is absolutely beautiful. I think meditating on and worshiping with this will lead to some really good time with Jesus.
See Shane Claiborne speak. I know some Christians roll their eyes at Claiborne (But honestly, who don’t they roll their eyes at?) but his books have invigorated me and pushed me and I think his voice has been much needed to a watching world, especially when ultra-conservative fundamentalists tend to take over and stain Jesus’ name for a lot of people. My personal favorite book of his is collaboration with John Perkins, ‘Follow Me to Freedom.’ Plus, anyone that can write a heartfelt, non-corny piece about Jesus in ‘Esquire’ is good in my book. Bonus: I know that I will definitely accomplish this — he’s coming to Iowa in February. Win!
Visit friends in PA. This spring, two of our closest friends moved away. And then they had a baby. And then we adopted one. We miss doing life with them. They’re the type of people that are down-to-earth and down-right amazing. Do you have a type of friend who would take a day off work to last-minute drive from Des Moines to Atlanta and back in 24 hours for a visa so you can fly to Nigeria the next day? We do. These peeps definitely left a hole in our hearts and I hope to see them soon.
Get new glasses. I’ve been rocking the same maroon, oval-shape glasses since undergrad. They definitely get the job done (I’m Coke-bottle blind, you guys) but they’re not exactly fashion forward, which means I only wear them very late at night and very early in the morning — the rest of the time, I’m shoving contacts into my dry eyes. I’d probably wear glasses more if I had some I thought were cute. And we just got vision insurance! Which means I can go to a real eye doctor and get real frames instead of a recent grad working the corner of Sams Club. But I don’t know if even the hipster-est of glasses would make me look adorkable, or just like a dork. My elementary pictures suggest the latter.
Go to Target Field. I spent my formative tween years in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, which means I got dragged to my fair share of Twins games at the Metrodome. Turns out, I kind of loved the Metrodome and I kind of can’t believe the Twins don’t play there any more. I have got to see this new place for myself. And Joseph needs to experience his first MLB game! I know Jonny would push for the Cubs, but if I get Joseph a Mauer jersey, we won’t have a choice, now will we? (Cue evil laughter!)
Clean my closet. We currently live in a 1.5 story house from the 1940’s, which doesn’t leave a lot of space. Which is good, because it forces me to downsize. I really have so many clothes that could be doing way more for others. I’m not sure if the best way to tackle the threads is to commit a whole day or to do little by little, section by section. Downsizing. Simplicity. Sounds good to me. Thoughts?
Read two books a month. Pretty self-explanatory.
Blog weekly. Ditto.
Okay. So I have room for five more. Help?
Well, actually four because one is more on the DL. :-)